Posted 7/05/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
The sale of a dog has set off some alarms over how city funds are being used.
The Tioga Fund board last Feburary awarded $15,000 to the police reserves towards the purchase of a new police dog.
The commission approved the award shortly before budget cuts were made. The police department faced extensive cuts, which led to two positions being laid off.
Officer Jackie Halonen, who had been training as the dog’s handler, resigned in protest of the cuts.
The reserve board last month then discussed selling the dog to Halonen for $8,000, who will then utilize the dog wherever she ends up working next.
At the meeting where the issue was discussed, Tioga resident Ronica Pederson objected to the sale.
Pederson said she felt the reserves should replace the full amount of the purchase of the dog since its purpose is to benefit Tioga and the award was made based on that benefit.
If Halonen takes the dog with her to work in another community, another community will benefit from Tioga’s taxes.
“If the money is not going to stay in our community, it should be returned,” she said.
Reserve board member Russ Papineau said he received a number of phone calls from members of the community upset at the reserve board’s intentions, but he said there’s a lot of misinformation concerning the sale.
The city never actually took possession of the dog, and it remains with the supplier who is charging the reserve board $1,000 a month for the dog’s care.
They did try to sell the dog back to the supplier, who offered only $7,000.
Papineau said it’s not easy to find a willing and suitable buyer.
“These dogs are trained to go after people and tear at them. You need a trained officer to handle them,” Papineau said.
He also said the dog has to be retrained for a new handler, which adds to the buyer’s cost of taking possession of the dog.
The option of keeping the dog until the city hires a new officer who can handle the animal would also cost the board $1,000 a month until an officer is hired and trained to handle the dog.
That could be three months in the best-case scenario, but it could be as much as six months or more.
Bills for the dog’s care, meanwhile, continue to accumulate. By selling the dog to Halonen, they save those costs and get the best possible bid for the sale.
“We’re trying to stop the bleeding,” Papineau said.
While the loss of about $7,000 is unfortunate, Papineau said, it pales in comparison to other mistakes the city has made that cost taxpayers money.
He said the decision to purchase the dog came prior to the announcement of budget cuts, and they wouldn’t have gone through with it if they’d known what was coming.
The board is still deliberating the issue, considering options, and no vote has been made to sell the dog.